Friday, 1 August 2008

Monday, July 14 Museum of London

Our first trip in our first full week was to the Museum of London. The museum is a close walk from the Barbican Center and St. Paul's Cathedral. The Museum of London was created in 1976 by combining the collections of the Guildhall Museum and the London Museum. Just recently the museum became part of a larger group of organizations interested in preserving the history of London. The Museum in Docklands, Museum of London Archeology, and the London Archeological Archive and Research Center are all under the title of Museum of London.

The class was greeted by Jon Cotton, a curator at the museum. Mr. Cotton gave a brief lecture on the history of the museum and their goal as an organization. Their goal is to preserve the history of London throughout the ages and exhibit it in a way for all to understand. It seemed that Mr. Cotton's specialization was on pre-historic London. He explained to us that "pre-history" includes the time period before the written word and recorded history existed. London was inhabited by our earliest ancestors during this time and Mr. Cotton's goal is to educate to public about this fact. One of the more exciting artifacts he chose to illustrate this point was a piece of a clay jar. He pointed out that the jar had been decorated by inserting a fingernail into the wet clay making an impression. This artifact held an exciting connection between past and present.

Mr. Cotton went on to explain the construction of the new pre-historic exhibit. He and some of his colleagues met with contracted carpenters to get ideas for the new space. The group traveled to several museums and discussed what they liked and didn't like about exhibits. The design of the pre-historic exhibit is modeled on four principles. Mr. Cotton believes these to be essential to understanding this time period in London. They are: climate, River Thames, people, and the legacy.

Following the presentation our class was asked to walk through the exhibit. I found that it was organized in a very linear way and incorporated all of the aspects Mr. Cotton believed to be important. I also thought that the exhibit incorporated enough interactive information to keep a viewer interested.

At the conclusion of our class session we were able to explore the museum on our own. While on my on tour I found one artifact to be a far more compelling reminder of the past than any other. This was the remains of the Roman city wall still standing after 2000 years.

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